My guitar and I stood in a quick-draw face-off with a car appearing to be moaning over the thought of pulling my camp bulk up and over the continental divide for a fifth time in two months. My eyes went back and forth from my over packed car to my seldom-played guitar, remembering that with limited skills, little practice, and with numbness in my hand associated with a bulging disk, I figured that I was being overly optimistic about camp songs reverberating over the hills as they had in summers past; plus, my role for the next six days was to lead nature hikes, so the guitar could, as it had all summer, stay at home. But suspecting that Laurel Ridge’s Junior 3 camp was going to have a small staff with few musicians, I shook my head and stuffed one more bulky item into the back seat. My thought: Why am I putting this guitar in my car?
“Are there any adult musicians on our volunteer staff to lead songs during assembly?” I asked upon arrival. Our Dean, the Rev. Scott Venable replied “No one. Alan, did you bring a guitar?” All I could think of was the twang that hurt my ears when I last tried to strum a few tunes. Scott went on to ask if we could write out a list of songs for me to lead in conjunction with our theme. I sure hated to tell him that it would be easier for me to give him a list of songs that fit my limitations, but he needed to know right up-front what he was getting; a guy who might manage to play a short list of easily chorded, simple tunes.
Our first group assembly was on Sunday night. We began to sing with a few fun songs and as I silently apologized for what might be a chorus of discord, brought out the guitar and plucked out Peace Like a River, Sanctuary, and Feed my Sheep. The campers revealed excitement and energy as they sang out in wonderful voice! The sound was awesome and uplifting, but I could feel pain in my hand and prayed silently, “Oh God, I need some help this week!”
As I began my breakfast hike from cabin to dining hall the next morning, I was greeted with guitar music! My prayer answered! I looked for an adult with a guitar, but instead it was camper Jack who had guitar in hand. Jack told me that he didn’t know the chords to our camp songs, but he was eager to learn. So I decided to invite him to play on stage at our next assembly. I hadn’t walked very far until I ran into a very familiar face, camper Abigail, who I remembered as an excellent musician. I invited Abigail to play guitar with us. She was very excited about joining us!
If I had any doubts about our trio, they were soon dismissed. I was worried when I had to quit playing during a song due to pain in my hand. Funny how the sound was better when I dropped out! Of course, a couple of times I did hear a couple of wrong notes, but I discovered that they were coming from my guitar! I was amazed at how fast Jack learned the tunes by just watching me. And Abigail could tune all guitars in a couple of minutes by ear! She could play any song on the list with ease.
I was very grateful for these wonderful camper musicians and thanked God for sending me help; but moreover, these two young campers and their motivation to serve and their vision of sharing their talent as ministry humbled me. Our time of singing became a time of worship, going from notes and performance to praise. The Spirit was at work and I could see it all around camp; in tears after a moving M-staff led campfire to exploring God’s creation on a nature hike. From making lasting friendships to the caring for campers in the infirmary. In playing on the field, making candles, Lovefeast trays, Ukrainian eggs, and catapults, and even in sliding down the monster slide in the lake, the community for one week was peace on earth.
After our last worship, Jack, Abigail, and I walked down the mountain together. It was hard to think about the week coming to a close. Abigail turned to us and said ìI want to have a prayer with the guitarists.î She prayed aloud about our time of music ministry service on the mountain. After Abigail finished her prayer, Jack looked at me and said, “Someday, I will be on M-Staff.”
My question: Why did I put that guitar in the car? On the last day of the last camp of the Laurel Ridge summer, I knew why. Hmm, I wonder what God can do with my fishing rod?
Alan Snow (pictured above) is a member of Friedland Moravian Church and a devoted Laurel Ridge camp volunteer.
From the May 2013 Moravian Magazine